Ocracokers struggle to cope with
sporadic ferry service at Hatteras Inlet
North Carolina Ferry Division has added two evening ferry
between Ocracoke and Swan Quarter in response to citizen concerns about
ferry suspensions the last few weeks because of heavy
the Rollinson Channel between Ocracoke and Hatteras.
Wednesday, Jan. 9, in addition to the winter schedule already in place,
there will be a 7 p.m. ferry leaving from Ocracoke and a 10 p.m. ferry
leaving from Swan Quarter. The extra night departures will continue
until the channel is dredged and the Hatteras-Ocracoke schedule returns
Shoaling in the channel has been an issue since
Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Hurricane Sandy in late October,
followed by two northeasters, added to the sand buildup.
pipeline dredge Richmond had dredged Ocracoke Inlet from Sept. 5 until
mid-December, although officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
who hired the dredge, said it was scheduled to go to Hatteras in
mid-October. The Richmond got to the Hatteras Inlet before
Christmas and will be there into March, according to ACE.
additional ferries were agreed to Monday night, noted Lucy Wallace,
information officer for the ferry division, after a discussion between
the division and Ocracoke and Hyde County officials.
This followed the monthly Hyde County Commissioners’ meeting
where two Ocracoke residents spoke about the issue.
O’Neal told the commissioners that some basketball games with Ocracoke
school had to be cancelled in recent days because the traveling teams
would not have been able to get off or on the island.
the kids, but additional Swan Quarter ferries will help with people
getting to doctors, appointments and taking care of business,” he said.
Baker, owner of Mermaid’s Folly, said that she was worried she would
not be able to get off the island early Thursday morning to catch a
flight in Norfolk. While she is going to see if the 6 a.m.
will run, she has made a reservation with the Swan Quarter ferry a bit
later just in case. She was hoping islanders could get some financial
relief from having to pay the toll for the Swan Quarter ferry if the
Hatteras ferries don’t run when islanders need them.
Styron, former commissioner from Ocracoke, said in the meeting that the
issue was trying to get the dredge to do the bad areas first, but that
it started at Ocracoke Inlet first.
Justin Gibbs, director of
Hyde County Emergency Services, noted that ferry access is important
for emergency and medical services.
“It’s time to step up on that,” Gibbs told the commissioners Monday
Fletcher, the commissioner from Ocracoke, said Tuesday, “When
have a contract, they’re going to want to do it the cheapest way
He echoed other islanders who have had to cancel appointments up the
to Ocracoke,” noted Celeste Brooks, postmistress at the Ocracoke
office, who added at 1 p.m. the mail still had not arrived. “He’s been
sitting there at the Hatteras dock since 10 a.m. This is the price we
pay for living on Ocracoke.”
that some long-time residents have noted that the high tide lines at
some spots on the island show that the higher tides aren’t coming back
as fast. “What is high tide is still looking low,” she said.
Several islanders noted that this is the first time they’ve had to
study the tide charts and plan their off-island trips.
been a real challenge,” noted Tommy Hutcherson, owner of the Variety
Store. “I sat down last Thursday with my tide chart and my schedule.
That was the first time I’ve done that.”
He added that he has
ample stock of meat in his large walk-in freezer and that the vendors
of essential items have gotten through. He has been
coordinate some deliveries with the Burrus Red & White
and Nedo’s in Hatteras village.
“I understand the situation,” he said. “We all have to work together.”
Death, manager of the Beachcomber Campground and gas station, noted
that tide charts he prints have been flying off the counter.
a total mess, especially for someone who does business on Ocracoke and
Hatteras,” said Jeff Morey, whose Deep Blue Detailing Service spans
islands. After getting to Hatteras Monday morning to do business, he
couldn’t get back until the midnight ferry.
that once the dredge gets to the very shallow parts of the
channel—markers 9 and 10— all ferry runs may have to be suspended
while the dredge does its work because there may not be
room for both the dredge and the ferry.
If and when this happens, the ferry division will make an advance
announcement, Wallace said.
pattern of suspensions has occurred around from two hours before to two
hours after every low tide, according to personnel at the ferry office.
The ferry division has been posting updates at the NCDOT Hwy 12
Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NCDOTNC12?ref=ts&fref=ts.
A blog on this page gives further information about the ferry channel
and interested persons can call the Hatteras Ferry Terminal for
departure information at 252-986-2353.